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Milwaukee's Polar Bear Plunge 2014

Hundreds will take the frosty dip

Dec. 23, 2013
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A New Year’s resolution is often a well-intentioned, empty declaration made the morning after an evening of celebration of excess. And while some are content to accept this fact, others have been finding ways to punctuate New Year’s Day with appropriate action that involves just the right level of recklessness and insanity. Witness the various Polar Bear Clubs in frosty parts of the nation, including the Milwaukee Polar Bear Club’s annual New Year’s plunge. On New Year’s Day, hundreds of teenagers, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, baby boomers and card-carrying members of the Greatest Generation shed their winter coats and inhibitions to sprint into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan. Generally comprised of both experienced divers and nervous newcomers, all are encouraged to follow the same set of rules to encourage maximum enjoyment for all involved. 


Six Tips for Polar Bear Plunge Participants


1.                  Pace Yourself

Considering the fact that the plunge coincides with Milwaukee’s collective New Year’s hangover, requiring divers to enter the water with alcohol-free bloodstreams would be both unfair and unrealistic. And while seeking liquid courage is not uncommon among plunge participants, it is not a good idea, practically speaking, to get buzzed before submerging into 30-degree water.


2.                  Use Common Sense

Asking an individual intent on diving into a frigid lake to remain sensible about the plunge may seem a tad ironic, but the request is essential to Polar Bear Plunge preparation. Consider your personal health and the health of your friends before taking the plunge. Individuals with heart conditions are not encouraged to participate, and “swim time” should not exceed 15 minutes.  


3.                  Nominate a Designated Driver

As tamers of the chaos and facilitators of fun, Polar Bear Plunge designated drivers are responsible for driving, watching personal belongings, cradling thermoses, carrying coats and towels, and taking photos and videos.


4.                  Attitude Is Everything

While the annual plunge may not attract crowds as large as warmer weather lakeside events, its participants are among the most enthused. For many, the plunge has become a New Year’s Day tradition—a ritual that involves huddling close to other Wisconsinites who are equally excited to do something marginally crazy. Jokes and jesting are always welcome; references to the Lusitania and the Darwin Awards are not.


5.                  Clothing and Costume Considerations

First-time participants in particular are prone to forget that clothing choices are just as important as costume decisions. A fleece Santa Claus suit or a pressed tuxedo may seem like fun ideas, but emerging from the water covered in freezing, drenched fabric can quickly inspire regret. Each participant should have one pair of comfortable boots to wear before and after the plunge, as well as sandals or shoes to wear in the water. Divers should have a comfortable pair of pants and a large coat ready after sprinting back to shore.


6.                  Diver Decorum 

Remain mindful of the fact that the plunge is a group activity. Be kind to other swimmers, park with patience, bask in the camaraderie and leave Bradford Beach exactly the way you found it. Good luck and Happy New Year to this year’s participants.


The 2014 Polar Bear Plunge will be held on Jan. 1 at Bradford Beach. The “unofficial plunge” is scheduled to begin at noon. To learn more about this year’s plunge visit polarbearplungemilwaukee.com.


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